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Solar surges as young Kiwis go green

Solar energy is booming in New Zealand, with latest figures showing a strong increase in the number of installations over the past two years.


According to the Electricity Authority, there were about 28,000 solar energy systems connected to the grid as of July 2020.


By July this year, the total was almost 41,000 - an increase of about 46 per cent in just two years, with the surge in new installations happening despite Covid-19 restrictions.

A graph showing the number of new solar electricity installations connected to the New Zealand grid.

A graph showing the number of new solar electricity installations connected to the New Zealand grid.


The Sustainable Electricity Association of New Zealand (SEANZ) says its modeling suggests there’ll be around 45,000 new installations each year, from now on.


SEANZ Chairman Brendan Winitana says people are turning to solar energy to address rising energy costs and to reduce their carbon emissions.


“Creating energy on-site, or at point of use, is not only more cost effective, but it enables more consumers to be part of the upcoming ‘Transactive Grid’ where they can generate, sell, and share electricity with others,” Brendan says.


“It’s clear that solar technologies form part of the energy infrastructure in Aotearoa moving forward.”


The solar boom is being keenly felt, and encouraged, by those in the industry - like Laura and Shaun Andrews of Ecoefficient Solutions in Hawke’s Bay.



Laura started the company six years ago, and recently welcomed husband Shaun onto the team, luring him away from the forestry sector when the number of solar customers ramped up.


The company covers Hawkes Bay, Gisborne, Taupo and the Bay of Plenty, but have recently expanded to the South Island, and are now being approached to franchise other regions - such is the demand.


“We’re getting inquiries pretty much non-stop – the surge in demand has been incredible,” Laura says.


“Ten years ago, most solar panel customers were early adopters wanting to help the environment, even though there was only a limited financial benefit.


“Now we’re finding a new generation coming through which is increasingly concerned about things like climate change.


“Reducing their grid energy reliance and lowering their emissions by installing solar power is an easy way for them to make a difference.”


Hawke’s Bay is known for its sunny climate - but Laura says there’s something of a misconception around solar power only being financially worthwhile in sunny regions.


“Even if you live in a less sunny area, like the West Coast - anywhere on the West Coast of New Zealand - solar is still a really good option, and your return on investment is well worth your while,” Laura said.


“You only have to look at the likes of Germany or the UK and see how much solar power is around there - and their sunlight hours are miserable, compared to ours.”


Installation costs and savings estimates


Laura says the average home would need 10-12 solar panels to offset most of their demand, equating to a 4-5kWh (kilowatt hour) system.


The cost of installing a 5kWh solar system, without batteries, varies in New Zealand depending on which company you go with - but estimates generally sit around the $11,000 mark.


Without a battery to store any excess energy generated, the average homeowner would save “about $150 per month, maybe a little more” on their power bill - but Laura says savings vary considerably depending on the user’s daily usage habits.


The average payback period - the time for the system to pay for itself with the savings it makes - is around 7-8 years for the average home, she says.


With a battery to complement the system, the amount of money saved each month would be greater - often going into positive energy generation, where excess electricity is sold back to the New Zealand power grid.


The additional cost of the battery system would also mean a longer payback period of, typically, between 10-12 years.


About a third of Ecoefficient Solution’s customers now opt for a system which incorporates a battery, and the company is one of only a few in New Zealand with certification to supply and install Tesla Powerwalls.


Laura says premium quality solar panels have a warranty period of 25 years, and that customers can have peace of mind when their systems are installed by SEANZ-accredited installers, because the industry body imposes strict quality assurance and remediation procedures.

The Ecoefficent Solutions team, from left, Nathan Berry, Laura and Shaun Andrews, and Anna Saxton, at this year's SEANZ Fronius New Zealand Sustainable Energy Industry Awards. They won Runner-Up in the Best Small Business category.

The Ecoefficent Solutions team, from left, Nathan Berry, Shaun and Laura Andrews, and Anna Saxton, at this year's SEANZ Fronius New Zealand Sustainable Energy Industry Awards. They won Runner-Up in the Best Small Business category.


‘Biggest barrier’ to going solar removed


One of the biggest barriers to customers interested in solar power has always been financing the initial cost of installing it, Laura says.


“Going solar - the cost to do it isn't cheap, and that's a reality,” she says.


“There's a lot of parts required - the panels, inverters, cable, the installation, consents, monitoring, batteries - so the biggest barrier that I've seen over the last seven and a half years is funding it.”


However, that barrier is no longer the challenge it once was.


“Banks like ANZ have come on board and offered a 1% interest Good Energy Home Loan – so that can help people, in terms of managing the initial cost of installation,” Laura says.


ANZ launched the Good Energy Home Loan earlier this year, offering eligible ANZ home loan customers a 1% p.a. interest loan for three years of up to $80,000* to fund sustainability improvements to their property - like solar panels.


About 2500 New Zealand households have taken advantage of the Good Energy Loan so far, with more than $100 million in lending being drawn down in the past six months.


ANZ New Zealand Regional Manager - Business Marcus Bousfield says inquiries about the loan are ramping up, as more homeowners realise solar power is now within reach.

Marcus Bousfield - ANZ New Zealand Regional Manager - Business.

Marcus Bousfield - ANZ New Zealand Regional Manager - Business.


“We’re getting customers come in who have been keen to do something in that space, but have been put off previously by the outlay required,” Bousfield said.


“With us removing a lot of the barrier around that with our loan, it really brings those conversations right up the priority list, and we’re starting to see some momentum there.


“For a lot of people, the Good Energy Home Loan for solar is going to make sense – it’s pretty compelling for the average New Zealand homeowner - they can look at the savings they're making with rising energy bills, and also do something that makes an impact from an environmental point of view.”


Laura says while she enjoys the thought of making a difference for the environment, she gets the most enjoyment from helping people save money on their bills.


“I love it when customers come back and say my estimates were incorrect, and that their savings have exceeded expectations,” she says.


“We love that we are helping people save money, invest in their home, and go green and help the environment.”


The ANZ Good Energy Home Loan is available to new and existing ANZ home loan customers.

Customers can borrow up to $80,000 at a fixed rate of 1% p.a. over three years.

After the special 3 year fixed rate, ANZ’s Home Loan floating interest rate will apply.

Offer subject to change. Offer terms, lending criteria, and fees may apply.

Solar electricity systems are provided by third parties.

ANZ does not warrant the quality of those goods or services, or the suitability for your particular circumstances.

For more information go to our website here: www.anz.co.nz/goodenergy.


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